South Tyneside College has been named the country’s top college and the best for overall provision of further education.
Judges at the sixth annual TES Further Education (FE) Awards hailed its commitment to educational attainment, student career advancement and the forging of strong connections with business and the community.
They were unanimous in their decision to recognise it as overall FE provider of the year, citing the breadth of skills on offer locally and nationally as ‘outstanding’, with one judge describing their decision as a ‘no-brainer’.
And they said the South Shields college’s ‘outstanding’ employment rate for learners put it ahead of other highly impressive entries in the FE College of the year category.
Praising Chief Executive Dr Lindsey Whiterod OBE, they said South Tyneside was ‘a brilliant example of a college with a breadth of skills offers’.
A TES FE Awards spokesman said: “South Tyneside’s commitment to the educational advancement and career attainment of its learners has made it an exceptional centre of learning.
“As well as impressive work within the college, such as delivering clear progression routes into work, it has also had significant impact in the wider community.”
Hundreds of FE providers submitted entries for the award’s 16 categories, which showcase achievement in the local community, employer engagement, innovation in teaching, leadership and apprenticeships.
Dr Whiterod, who has led the college since 2009, said success was due to the dedication, commitment and hard work of staff.
She added: “We all work as part of a team, driven to attain the highest possible educational standards and the best outcomes for students.
“This is the driving force which has allowed the college to deliver the exceptional and wide learning offer that has been recognised by the TES FE Awards judges.
“They said in their summing up that South Tyneside is an under-celebrated college – I’m delighted that our work has now been given the national recognition it deserves.”
Andrew Watts, Chair of Governors at South Tyneside College, said: “Providing our students with the high-quality education that enhances their careers and life chances is central to everything the college strives to achieve.
“It is the motivation behind the many outstanding educational and training initiatives we have introduced to make this an exceptional place to study and to learn.
“To win either one of these top awards would have been an amazing achievement, but to win both is truly outstanding, and something to be celebrated.”
Judges, who included David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, and Neil Carberry, the CBI’s Director for People and Skills, described the college as ‘a very deserving winner’.
While praising work done internally, they also highlighted how forging connections with businesses and organisations had provided an exceptional level of learning experiences for students.
These included the creation of South Tyneside College Academy Trust to run Ridgeway Primary Academy in South Shields - which has gone from ‘satisfactory’ to Ofsted rated ‘good’ as well as being in the top 1% of 21,000 schools nationally for improvement in reading and maths; and a new partnership with Sunderland’s Monkwearmouth Academy, to expand sixth form provision.
They also cited an example of the college’s successful outreach as being its support for a new £12m health centre within South Tyneside District Hospital, with students helping in its hair salon, cafe and shop.
And the college’s development of short courses that link it more closely to the community by supporting people to learn skills and gain qualifications, was also praised.
Judges saw the international South Shields Marine School and the Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre, which are operated by the college, as significant drivers of regional economic prosperity.
In reaching their decisions, they also emphasised how after completing their course, more than 90 per cent of learners progress into either employment or further study.
They were also impressed with the college’s 77.8 per cent pass rate at intermediate level, which is higher than the national average of 68.4 per cent.
More than 600 people attended the black-tie awards event at Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, London, which was hosted by comedian Rob Beckett.